Packaging innovation has a long way to go to address waste concerns

The 2014 edition of Pack Expo is running in Chicago until Wednesday. Billed as the world’s largest packaging show, and very credibly qualifying for that label based on GallonDaily’s experience, the show is hosted by PMMI The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies and attracts an estimated 65,000 people over four days. The show is absolutely huge, featuring everything from packaging concepts and machinery to materials and labels (no, Toronto, your beloved Deco Labels, owned by the Ford family, is not here!).

It is challenging but not impossible to find environmental concepts at PackExpo. Among those which have caught GallonDaily’s attention:

  • energy and water use efficiency as a feature of packaging equipment.
  • even more robotics than at previous packaging shows we have attended, with robots for everything from forming, filling, boxing, and palletizing packages.
  • packaging robots capable of using different size containers depending on the size of goods being shipped, for example for consumer internet or mail orders, with the robot efficiently organizing the different size packages on the pallet.
  • considerable expansion in promotion of polypropylene for packages, including a new clear polypropylene material that visually closely resembles clear polystyrene or PET and can be used for all applications appropriate for those resins.
  • wax-free water resistant cartons.
  • bag in box systems
  • self-supporting lightweight plastic film containers
  • ever increasing types of multimaterial films, some with as many as 9 layers, adaptable to every conceivable application and set of properties including microwaveable, oven safe, hot liquid uses, shelf stability, freezer stable, and control of gas permeability.
  • increased lightweighting of packaging through better design and new material use, often without regard ton the recyclability of the end of life package.
  • packaging transportation efficiency, for example through use of square rather than round bottles.
  • metering dispensers incorporated into plastic packages so as to control the amount of product dispensed.
  • more reusable containers for food and industrial applications.
  • increasing availability of third party environmental, safety, and performance certifications.

A common thread throughout much of the packaging innovation on show is the multitude of problems likely to be caused to recycling system operators, especially in Canada where high-tech optical sorting systems for recyclable material handling are rare.

A GallonDaily special report directly from the floor of PackExpo 2014.

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